On the question of the status of the European Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) and of Eurocontrol, the decision to fudge the issue of by making them "official international bodies" but not single European authorities will, like most similar compromises, do more to salve bureaucratic consciences than to solve European problems.

The problem which needs solving most is that both bodies, as now constituted, lack the authority and control implied by their titles. Each authority exists by concession, various European nations having delegated certain of their responsibilities (but not their powers) in the areas of safety and air-traffic control respectively to them. While they perform a vital service in co-ordinating and harmonising the individual countries' activities in those areas - to the extent of taking over those activities in some cases - neither body has legislative powers or even legal existence as an independent body.

Both authorities have been remarkably successful in performing their allotted tasks, despite the handicaps of their unofficial existence (the JAA even had to form a special Dutch company through which to employ its office cleaners as it could not employ them itself within the terms of its charter), but they could do far more if only they had teeth.

The reason they do not have any genuine bite comes from their status as geographically European, rather than politically European, bodies. There is a commonly held, but quite erroneous, belief that both authorities are bodies of the European Union (EU). In fact, each has as many member countries outside the EU as it has within.

Were they bodies representing only member states of the EU, each could be given EU powers which would provide them with the right to legislate within those states, with the full authority of the European Commission (EC). As long as the appropriate checks and balances were in place, they could impose unified regulations and actions instead of having to reach them by agreement and see them often supplanted by local national regulations anyway.

This option is not open, because of the membership in both organisations of countries from outside the EU. For either body to have full independent authority, it would have to be set up as a totally independent organisation to which all those states which wished to be members would have to assign absolutely their rights and duties in aviation. That body would then have the power to delegate back to its member states the various functions which it wished to have performed locally.

The possibility of achieving an agreement among 30-odd states to assign their aviation rights and privileges to an independent transnational body are, alas, so remote as to be dismissable.

The fudge addition of the EC as an extra member of each body will do little to enhance its powers of commission or persuasion. It might be more effective were the member states of the EU to delegate their powers to the EC, which could then effectively replace them as members of those two bodies. On that basis, any policy decided with the JAA or Eurocontrol might have the force of law within the EC at least, and the force of persuasion among the non-EU members of each body, and, arguably have an influence on the rest of the world.

There are certain EU state governments to which the concepts of an independent, legislating JAA or an ATC body independent of sovereign boundaries even within the EU are, anyway, anathema. It is unfortunate that France and the UK, the two most powerful aviation nations in Europe, are among their number. It is unlikely, therefore, that even this solution would be a possible option, and neither the JAA nor Eurocontrol will acquire the status in its territory that the Federal Aviation Administration has, for example, in the USA.

"Eurocontrol and the JAAs have as many member countries outside the European Union as they do within it."

Source: Flight International